It was the warmest day so far this spring. There’s nothing like a walk in Central Park with the one I love, walking hand in hand, laughing as we talk about nothing in particular. It’s easy to lose yourself in the scenery and the emotion, warm sun lighting upon your face. It seemed as if the birds were there just for us, flying above our heads and singing. She started doing that thing where she bumps in to me on purpose, nudging me. I followed suit, gently crashing in to her. I squeezed her hand and pulled her close. We stopped. I bent down and kissed her.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you too,” I answered. “Let’s go to the pond and watch the children run their boats.” I was so happy when I learned that kids ran remote control boats on the pond like in the movie “Stuart Little.”
We turned down to the left and continued on the walkway. Two squirrels ran by, playing. A pigeon cooed as it landed a few feet in front of us. As we came around a bend in the path, I noticed an old woman sitting on a bench knitting a red sweater. A bit out of season, I thought, given how warm it was. As we got closer, I was hit with a case of the butterflies in my stomach. There was something familar about this woman. I was about ten feet from the bench when I stopped in my tracks. I started to tremble.
“What is it?” my girlfriend asked.
I couldn’t speak. I just started to cry. The woman looked up and gasped. Our eyes met with an immediate sense of recognition. I couldn’t believe it. My mother had left me with my aunt fourteen years ago. She had struggled with drug addiction for most of her life. She lost custody of me and my sister several times over the years, but could never seem to stop using. There were many times when I’d come home and find her passed out, high, on the couch or the living room floor. I had always hoped she’d be able to beat her addiction. When it got too bad, my aunt agreed to raise us. She left town. I didn’t see her for fourteen years.
Now, here she was. Sitting on a bench in Central Park. Knitting.
“Mom?” I said.
“I don’t understand. What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Knitting,” she said, smiling.
“Where have you been?”
“I’ve been living in the City for a while now. I went to rehab last year, and I’m clean,” she said.
“I can’t believe this. You look good. How are you?” I asked.
“I’m doing well. For the first time in my life I feel free,” she said. “Who’s this with you?”
“This is my girlfriend, Margie. Margie, this is my mom.”
“It’s so nice to meet you,” said Margie as she reached out to shake my mother’s hand. Mom put her knitting down and stood up. She threw her arms around Margie. Then she turned to me and gave me a huge hug. I couldn’t stop crying. All these years and I run in to my mother knitting on a bench in Central Park. When she left, I thought I’d never see her again. I’ll admit, I thought she was dead by now. She could not stop getting high, and I was sure she’d died of an overdose.
“Mom, will you join us for lunch?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. She put her knitting back in her bag and zipped it shut. I took her hand and turned to face Margie. We just stood there for a minute, taking it all in. Then we all sighed in unison and started down the path back to Fifth Avenue.
My mother was back.